Star, black hole interaction further proves Einstein’s theory

A new analysis on a distant black hole shows that Einstein’s theory of general relativity remains rock solid.

For the first time in history scientists have used a supermassive black hole’s gravitational field to confirm Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a new study in Astronomy & Astrophysics reports.

To do this, a team of international researchers analyzed the black hole at the center of the Milky Way — known as Sagittarius A — and a star in its orbit known as S2.

Using a combination of technology, mathematics, and observations, they studied the pair and observed S2 move close to the black hole. During that event, the fiery body acted exactly as predicted by the theory of relativity. 

“This is the second time that we have observed the close passage of S2 around the black hole in our galactic center,” said study co-author Reinhard Genzel, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, according to Science Alert. “But this time, because of much improved instrumentation, we were able to observe the star with unprecedented resolution.”

Three S-stars orbit Sagittarius A, and S2 gets extremely close to the hole every now and then. In the recent study, it moved within just 17 light-hours of the formation.

That is significant because, according to Einstein’s theory, the event should have stretched S2’s light into long wavelengths through a process known as gravitational redshifting.

While it is not easy to observe S2, high-tech telescopes analyzed the star and revealed its light did behave in that way.

The finding falls in line with other recent studies that set out — and failed — to disprove the popular theory.

However, such trials are important because if the theory ever does fail it would drastically alter the way scientists view and understand both the universe and the field of physics. 

“What we hope is at some point we will see something in the galactic centre that we can’t explain with Einstein’s theory – that would be really, really exciting,” said study co-author Odele Straub, a researcher at the Paris Observatory in France, according to BBC News. “Because then we could go back to the drawing board and come up with something better.”

Scientists build a super battery using quantum mechanics

Physicists are using the unique properties of quantum mechanics to develop a new super battery that people will be able to charge instantly.

If you are exasperated by waiting hours for your smartphone to charge, a new research project at the University of Adelaide might change that. Ramsay Fellow, Dr. James Quach, wants to use quantum mechanics’ unique properties to build the fastest charging battery in the world.

Dr. Quach is an expert in the field and he said that the possibility of instantaneous charging is on the horizon. He wants to use the entanglement method.

Entanglement is a phenomenon where two entangled objects share their individual properties with each other, even when spatially separated. Performing an action on one object affects the other object.

This occurs at a molecular level, where normal physics laws do not work. According to Quash, it is because of this property that it is viable to speed up the charging process.

His invention is based on a theory that the more quantum batteries the faster they charge. This does not apply to conventional batteries.

For example, if one quantum battery takes an hour to charge, adding another will decrease the time to 30 minutes. Once developed, it might cut charging times to zero.

“Entanglement is incredibly delicate, it requires very specific conditions – low temperatures and an isolated system – and when those conditions change the entanglement disappears,” Quash said. With the support of the academic community in Adelaide, interstate and globally, his goal is to extend the theory of the quantum battery and build a lab conducive to the conditions for entanglement to materialize.


Early universe observations reaffirm existence of dark matter and dark energy

New data continues to reaffirm the existence of the inexplicable dark matter and dark energy.

Although dark energy and dark matter are inexplicable, data continues to reaffirm their existence. And with the final data from Europe’s Planck missions released, this continues to be the care.

From 2009 through 2013, the mission mapped the universe’s oldest light in great detail, and the European Space Agency (ESA) claims that the results reaffirm the “standard model of cosmology.”

“This is the most important legacy of Planck,” Jan Tauber, ESA’s Planck project scientist, said in a statement. “So far, the standard model of cosmology has survived all the tests, and Planck has made the measurements that show it.”

The initial release of the data led to some hesitancy, as the team stressed that the results were preliminary.

“We felt the quality of some of the polarization data was not good enough to be used for cosmology,” Tauber said.

But the new release represents a novel method of processing mission data, which lays many doubts to rest.

“Now we really are confident that we can retrieve a cosmological model based solely on temperature, solely on polarization, and based on both temperature and polarization,” said Reno Mandolesi of the University of Ferrara in Italy, a principal investigator of the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI)—one of Planck’s two science instruments. “And they all match.”

Of course, nothing is ever certain when it comes to dark energy and dark matter.

“For the moment, we shouldn’t get too excited about finding new physics; it could well be that the relatively small discrepancy can be explained by a combination of small errors and local effects,” Tauber said. “But we need to keep improving our measurements and thinking about better ways to explain it.”

Physicists observe Higgs boson decaying for first time ever

For the first time ever since their discovery six years ago, physicists have observed the Higgs boson decaying.

Six years after their discovery, physicists have finally observed the Higgs boson decaying into fundamental particles called bottom quarks. The finding is consistent with the hypothesis that the quantum field behind the Higgs boson provides mass to the bottom quark.

“This observation is a milestone in the exploration of the Higgs boson,” said Karl Jakobs, spokesperson of the ATLAS collaboration. It shows that the ATLAS and CMS experiments have achieved deep understanding of their data and a control of backgrounds that surpasses expectations. ATLAS has now observed all couplings of the Higgs boson to the heavy quarks and leptons of the third generation as well as all major production modes.”

“Since the first single-experiment observation of the Higgs boson decay to tau-leptons one year ago, CMS, along with our colleagues in ATLAS, has observed the coupling of the Higgs boson to the heaviest fermions: the tau, the top quark, and now the bottom quark,” said Joel Butler, spokesperson of the CMS collaboration. “The superb LHC performance and modern machine-learning techniques allowed us to achieve this result earlier than expected.”

With continued research and data, the collaboration will improve the precision of such measurements and continue moving the Higgs boson probe forward.

“The experiments continue to home in on the Higgs particle, which is often considered a portal to new physics,” said CERN Director for Research and Computing Eckhard Elsen. “These beautiful and early achievements also underscore our plans for upgrading the LHC to substantially increase the statistics. The analysis methods have now been shown to reach the precision required for exploration of the full physics landscape, including hopefully new physics that so far hides so subtly.”

The findings were published on the pre-print server arXiv.

Ancient quasar lights support quantum entanglement

A new study examines quasar light to provide the strongest evidence yet for quantum entanglement, or “spooky action at a distance.”

A new study just provided the strongest evidence yet for quantum entanglement, also known as “spooky action at a distance.” The physics concept states that an object can be changed, moved, or affected without mechanical contact by another object.

Using distance quasars, including one that emitted its light 12.2 billion years ago and another 7.8 billion years ago, the team determined the measurements necessary for pairs of entangled photons.

The results revealed correlations among over 30,000 photon pairs, which is far more than the limit initially calculated for classically-based mechanisms.

“If some conspiracy is happening to simulate quantum mechanics by a mechanism that is actually classical, that mechanism would have had to begin its operations — somehow knowing exactly when, where, and how this experiment was going to be done — at least 7.8 billion years ago,” said co-author Alan Guth of MIT. “That seems incredibly implausible, so we have very strong evidence that quantum mechanics is the right explanation.”

“The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, so any alternative mechanism — different from quantum mechanics — that might have produced our results by exploiting this loophole would’ve had to be in place long before even there was a planet Earth, let alone an MIT,” added David Kaiser, also of MIT. “So we’ve pushed any alternative explanations back to very early in cosmic history.”

“It is fun to think about new types of experiments we can design in the future, but for now, we are very pleased that we were able to address this particular loophole so dramatically,” he added. “Our experiment with quasars puts extremely tight constraints on various alternatives to quantum mechanics. As strange as quantum mechanics may seem, it continues to match every experimental test we can devise.”

The findings were published in Physical Review Letters.

Excited atoms illuminate anti-hydrogen research in new study

New research increases the efficiency of anti-hydrogen synthesis, marking a breakthrough in the field.

A new study from CERN breaks new ground in antihydrogen research by increasing the efficiency of its synthesis. This leads to the accumulation of anti-atoms for the first time ever, which increases the scope of experimentation.

“When an excited atom relaxes, it emits light of a characteristic colour, the yellow colour of sodium street lights is an everyday example of this,” said Mike Charlton, co-author of the study.

“When the atom is hydrogen, which is a single electron and a single proton, and the excited electron decays to the lowest energy state from a higher one, the discrete series of ultraviolet light emitted forms the Lyman Series, which is named after Theodore Lyman who first observed this over 100 years ago.”

According to Charlton, the presence of these lines helped provide the foundation of quantum mechanical theory, which is one of the cornerstones of physics today.

“The Lyman-alpha line is of fundamental importance in physics and astronomy,” he said. “For example, observations in astronomy on how the line from distant emitters is shifted to longer wavelengths (known as the redshift), gives us information on how the universe evolves, and allows testing models which predict its future”

The data is another landmark in atomic physics that will pave the way for manipulating the kinetic energies that are trapped in anti-atoms.

“While studies have continued at the Antiproton Decelerator facility at CERN, further refining these measurements and using the techniques to improve our understanding of the antihydrogen through spectroscopy, the ALPHA team will be modifying the apparatus in order to study the effect of Earth’s gravity on the anti-atom,” Charlton said. “The next few months will be an exciting time for all concerned.”

The findings were published in Nature.

Scientists discover first evidence of matter-matter coupling

A new study reveals the first-ever evidence of matter-matter coupling.

A new study from Rice University scientists revealed the first evidence of Dicke cooperativity in a matter-matter system. The findings could help evolve our understanding of quantum magnetism and spintronics.

The team used a magnetic field to induce cooperativity among spins within a crystalline compound created primarily from erbium and iron.

“This is an emerging subject in condensed matter physics,” Kono said. “There’s a long history in atomic and molecular physics of looking for the phenomenon of ultrastrong cooperative coupling. In our case, we’d already found a way to make light and condensed matter interact and hybridize, but what we’re reporting here is more exotic.”

Dicke cooperativity occurs when incoming radiation causes a group of atomic dipoles to couple, much like gears within a motor that don’t touch.

“Dicke was an unusually productive physicist,” Kono said. “He had many high-impact papers and accomplishments in almost all areas of physics. The particular Dicke phenomenon that’s relevant to our work is related to superradiance, which he introduced in 1954. The idea is that if you have a collection of atoms, or spins, they can work together in light-matter interaction to make spontaneous emission coherent. This was a very strange idea.”

“The interaction we’re talking about is really atomistic,” Kono concluded. “We show two types of spin interacting in a single material. That’s a quantum mechanical interaction, rather than the classical mechanics we see in light-matter coupling. This opens new possibilities for not only understanding but also controlling and predicting novel phases of condensed matter.”

The findings were published in Science.

Study discovers flaw in emergent gravity

A new study sheds light on a flaw in the theory of emergent gravity.

The theory of emergent gravity posits that gravity is not a fundamental force. Instead, it is an emergent phenomenon that is the result of the collective motion of tiny bits of information located in spacetime surfaces known as holographic screens.

But a new paper suggests that the holographic screen surfaces proposed by the theory don’t behave in a thermodynamic manner, which conflicts with one of the theory’s key assumptions.

“Emergent gravity has very strong claims: that it can explain things like dark matter and dark energy, but also reproduce the decades of work coming out of regular general relativity,” said Zhi-Wei Wang, a physicist at Jilin University in Changchun, China, and co-author of the study.

“That last claim is now knocked on its head by our work, so emergent gravity proponents will have their work cut out for themselves in showing consistency with the huge canon of observational results,” he added. “We’ve set them back, not necessarily knocked them out.”

The team found that certain surfaces, such as those near black holes, obey the first law of thermodynamics. However, others—such as holographic screens—do not.

In the future, the researchers hope to shed light on the implications that the findings have on the theory of emergent gravity.

“We spent a large amount of time working out how to reproduce the original results for black holes from the 1970s,” Braunstein said. “Although the methods from the 1970s were extremely tedious to replicate in detail, we found them very powerful and are thinking now about whether there is any way to generalize these results to other scenarios. Also, we think that our formula for the deviation away from the first law as one moves away from horizons will have important implications for quantum gravity.”

The findings were published in Nature Communications.

MIT students solve spaghetti breaking mystery

A pair of MIT researchers just solved an old physics mystery involving spaghetti.

A pair of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers just solved an old physics mystery stemming from the fact that spaghetti noodles almost always break into three or more pieces when broken in half. In particular, they proved that it is possible to break a piece of spaghetti into two pieces.

“For maybe a month, a month and a half, we would just break spaghetti after class, just cover the floor in broken pieces of spaghetti,” said Heisser, who is now a PhD student at Cornell University.

“I thought it would be cool to try and complete something that a famous physicist began,” he continued.

The team used mathematical modeling, a spaghetti-breaking contraption, and a high-tech camera to reveal that by bending and twisting spaghetti pieces, you can break them into two. And apparently, the twist is the most important part.

The reasoning lies in the old discovery that long, thin objects can be broken by applying even pressure at both ends, creating a “snap-back effect.”

“In our study, we go a bit further and show that actually you can control this fracture cascade and get two pieces if you twist it,” Patil said. “You can control the fracture process and then you get two pieces instead of many, many pieces.”

“Just understanding these complex fracture systems would be interesting going forward as well,” he added. “There’s still a lot to be discovered about fracture control and this is an example of fracture control.”

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

University reports that celebrity astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss grabbed breast

Celebrity astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss is in trouble following a sexual harassment incident.

After being accused of inappropriate behavior, an investigation by Arizona State University (ASU) concluded that high-profile astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss grabbed a women’s breast at a recent conference in Australia and thus violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.

“Responsive action is being taken to prevent any further recurrence of similar conduct,” said ASU’s executive vice president and provost, Mark Searle.

In regards to actions ASU is taking, a spokesperson for the university wrote the following:

“Professor Lawrence Krauss is no longer director of Arizona State University’s Origins Project, a research unit at ASU. Krauss remains on administrative leave from the university. It is the policy of the university not to comment on ongoing personnel matters.”

Krauss just recently announced that his director position on the Origins Project, which attempts to examine the beginnings of the universe, was not renewed for another 5-year term. He was placed on administrative leave on March 6 following sexual harassment allegations.

Microbiologist Melanie Thomson first filed a complaint about the incident, which was initially dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

“They should have believed me the first time,” Thomson said. “It’s ridiculous the amount of effort you have to go through to stop universities from just dismissing these cases. I have been traumatized by the process and I wasn’t even a victim.”

The unnamed woman who was sexually harassed reportedly “reacted with shock and physically moved away” from Krauss, although another eyewitness “body check[ed]” him immediately after he grabbed her breast.

Other eyewitnesses said that they woman was “frazzled and troubled” and “shocked” after the incident.